American Elephants


How low can approval ratings of a Democrat Congress go? by The Elephant's Child

Well, gas prices are high, and everybody is struggling mightily to avoid doing anything about it. Nancy Pelosi, having refused to allow any debate whatsoever on gasoline prices, is now demanding that President Bush open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to release a “small” amount of oil.

“These are the kind of circumstances, in addition to national security, in which utilization of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is more than justified,” Speaker Pelosi wrote in the letter dated Tuesday. read more

The reserve was opened by Bill Clinton to help Al Gore get elected. Yes, this was undoubtedly important to Democrats, but it was hardly a national emergency. They sold off the Naval Reserve in California to Occidental Petroleum too. George W. Bush opened the Reserve after Katrina when many rigs were damaged and off line, but that was a national emergency.

The definition of “national security” and the understanding of the phrase seem a little wobbly, at best. The Reserve consists of salt caverns that are filled with the largest emergency stockpile in the world, approximately 705 million barrels, about 97 percent of the reserve’s capacity. The reserve would replace foreign supplies for about 58 days, or roughly two months. Can you imagine an emergency that could last more than two months? Me too.

The biggest game is of course, attempting to establish blame. In her letter, Pelosi said that during Bush’s tenure the cost of a barrel of oil has risen five-fold, and the effects have been devastating. I do seem to remember President Bush repeatedly asking Congress to open offshore lands and ANWR to exploration, to authorize new refineries and nuclear plants.

Democrats have extolled Jimmy Carter’s prescience in dealing with a previous oil crisis, which was apparently wearing a sweater, installing a woodstove in the White House and putting solar panels on the roof.

The Shah of Iran fled his country in the wake of protests in 1979, allowing the Ayatollah Khomeni to take control. The revolution shattered the Iranian oil sector and drove up prices. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations increased production and the decline in production amounted to only about 4%. Still, a panic resulted, driving the price up further. read more

In the U.S., the Carter administration instituted price controls, which resulted in long lines at gas stations, as had happened six years earlier when President Nixon adopted price controls. Carter called the oil crisis “the moral equivalent of war” and suggested removing price controls. Congress agreed to remove them in phases, and they were finally discarded in 1981 under Ronald Reagan. From all of this we (hopefully) learned that price controls do not work.

Lessons to be learned now should include the idea that you cannot increase supply by hoping that wind and solar will replace gasoline. Not going to happen. Hybrid cars are an expensive luxury. Electric cars are a future possibility, but will require increased generation of electricity. Solar and wind at present make a minuscule contribution to the grid, and require constant back-up of electric power. Environmentalists’ Utopian dreams are just not ready for prime time, however much some want to rely on hope and change.

The other big lesson is that Congressional interference in the market usually has unfortunate results. The likelihood that lesson will be learned is microscopic, for nothing is ever the fault of congress.

The Senate Majority Leader says that oil and coal are making everyone “sick”, that they are “dirty” and that (non-existent) global warming will destroy the earth. This is the caliber of the debate, and the reason that approval of congress has dropped to single digits with only 9% of Americans approving of congress, and only 2% approving a “great deal”. Whew!


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